Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 August 2014, 14:37 GMT

July-December, 2010 International Religious Freedom Report - Djibouti

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 13 September 2011
Cite as United States Department of State, July-December, 2010 International Religious Freedom Report - Djibouti, 13 September 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e734ca241.html [accessed 21 August 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
September 13, 2011

[Covers six-month period from 1 July 2010 to 31 December 2010 (USDOS is shifting to a calendar year reporting period)]

The constitution and other laws and policies protect religious freedom and, in practice, the government generally enforced these protections.

The government generally respected religious freedom in law and in practice. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the government during the reporting period.

There were occasional reports of societal discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice. Familial and societal customs discouraged proselytizing and conversion from Islam.

The U.S. government discusses religious freedom with the government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country has an area of 8,450 square miles and a population of approximately 818,000. More than 99 percent of the population is Sunni Muslim. There are a small number of Roman Catholics, Protestants, Copts, Ethiopian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Jehovah's Witnesses, Hindus, and Bahais. Foreign-born citizens, as well as many expatriate residents, are often members of these denominations. Citizens are officially considered Muslims if they do not specifically identify with another faith.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

Please refer to Appendix C in the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for the status of the government's acceptance of international legal standards http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2010/appendices/index.htm.

The constitution and other laws and policies protect religious freedom and, in practice, the government generally enforced these protections.

Although Islam is the state religion, the government imposed no sanctions on those who choose to ignore Islamic teachings or to practice other faiths.

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs has authority in all Islamic matters, including mosques, private religious schools (with the Ministry of Education), religious events, as well as general Islamic guidelines of the state. The High Islamic Council within the ministry has the mandate to give advice on all religious concerns. It also is responsible for coordinating all Islamic nongovernmental organizations in the country.

The president and other government employees, including magistrates, are required to take religious oaths. While there is no penalty established by law for noncompliance, it remains an official custom. A small number of non-Muslims hold civil service positions without discrimination.

For matters such as marriage, divorce, and inheritance, Muslims are directed to family courts whose code includes elements of civil law and Sharia (Islamic law). Civil courts address the same matters for non-Muslims.

The government allows civil marriage only for non-Muslim foreign residents. Muslims are required to marry in a religious ceremony. A non-Muslim man may marry a Muslim woman only after converting to Islam. According to the family code, "impediment to a marriage occurs when a Muslim woman marries a non-Muslim."

The government requires that a religious group register by submitting an application to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which, along with the Ministry of the Interior, investigates the group. Once approved, the group signs an initial two-year bilateral agreement detailing the scope of the group's activities.

Foreign clergy and missionaries performed charitable works and sold religious books. The government licensed foreign missionary groups to operate orphanages. Public schools did not teach religion.

The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: the Birth of the Prophet Muhammad, the Ascension of the Prophet, Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, and the Islamic New Year.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

The government generally respected religious freedom in law and in practice. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the government during the reporting period.

There were no reports of abuses, including religious prisoners or detainees, in the country.

Section III. Status of Societal Actions Affecting Enjoyment of Religious Freedom

There were occasional reports of societal discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice.

Societal norms and customs discouraged proselytizing by non-Muslims and conversion from Islam; non-Muslim religious groups generally did not engage in public proselytizing.

The relationship among religious groups in society contributed to religious freedom; however, some representatives of Christian denominations noted occasional incidents of societal animosity towards non-Muslims. However, the presence of French Roman Catholics and Ethiopian Orthodox Christians, part of society for almost a century, were examples of tolerance of other faiths by the Muslim majority.

Ethnic Somalis who were Christian were in some cases buried according to Islamic traditions by relatives who did not recognize their non-Muslim faith.

Several different Christian denominations maintained close informal ties to each other. The Minister of Islamic Affairs met with the heads of other religious groups occasionally, including at government-organized ceremonies.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. government discusses religious freedom with the government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.

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